Together, the United States and Australia attract over 1.5 million international students every year. And while the main advantages of studying in one of these two countries are obvious, one question remains: which destination is better? And why should you choose one over the other?
The US vs Australia: Number of International Students
According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, over 1.1 million international students chose the US in 2020, making it one of the most sought-after study destinations in the world.
Australia isn’t an underdog either, having attracted around 650,000 international students last year. However, both countries have been impacted by the covid outbreak, and they expect these numbers to return to normal in the next years.
Conclusion: a clear win for America.
The US vs Australia: Top-Ranked Universities
Both Australian and American universities appear in the world academic rankings created by TopUniversities, Times Higher Education, and other organisations.
But if we look at the best universities in the world according to TopUniversities, there are 5 American universities in the top 10 and no Australian universities. But, of course, things can change if we sort the universities based on different academic subjects or other factors.
Still, one thing is clear: there are more US universities, and they often rank higher than Australian universities.
Top-ranked universities in the US
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Stanford University
- Harvard University
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- University of Chicago
- University of Pennsylvania
- Yale University
- Columbia University
- Princeton University
- Cornell University
Other universities we recommend in the US:
- Northeastern University
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
- University of Texas at Austin
- University of San Francisco
- University of Portland
Top-ranked universities in Australia
- The Australian National University
- The University of Melbourne
- The University of Sydney
- The University of New South Wales (UNSW)
- The University of Queensland
- Monash University
- The University of Western Australia
- The University of Adelaide
- University of Technology Sydney
- University of Wollongong
Other universities we recommend in Australia:
Discover why university ranking systems aren’t perfect and how you can use other criteria in the process of finding the ideal international university for you.
Conclusion: a win for the US.
The US vs Australia: Admission requirements
It can often be harder to meet the admission requirements at American universities.
That’s because, in addition to previous diplomas, transcripts of records, and English language test results, they often look at extracurricular activities, such as involvement in sports, competitions and awards, volunteering, etc. You might also need work experience or recommendation letters for certain degrees/universities.
Conclusion: while admission criteria can vary significantly from one uni to another, Australia has the upper hand here.
The US vs Australia: Tuition Fees
Neither the US nor Australia is known for offering affordable tuition fees. Public universities are less expensive than private ones, but even there, the costs are much higher when compared to academic institutions in Europe, for example.
- 15,000 – 40,000 USD/year at American universities
- 22,000 – 50,000 AUD/year at Australian universities
In the US, even more expensive study programmes are available, especially Business or Medical degrees, which can cost 60,000, 80,000 or sometimes over 100,000 USD per academic year.
Of course, you can still find affordable tuition fees — under 5,000 USD/year in the US and under 20,000 AUD/year in Australia — in both countries. Check out our lists of cheap universities in the US and Australia.
Conclusion: a win for Australia, even though its universities aren’t exactly cheap either.
The US vs Australia: Living Costs
In Australia, an international student can spend anywhere between 1,400 and 2,500 AUD per month.
In the US, you can expect the costs of living to range between 1,000 and 3,000 USD per month, mainly depending on the area where you’ll be studying. So, for example, Atlanta is more affordable than New York.
In both countries, accommodation represents the biggest expense. Based on your budget, you should decide between a reasonably priced student hall or a more expensive rented flat, which is often but not always more convenient.
Discover some of the costs you can easily overlook while preparing to go and study abroad.
Conclusion: we’d say it’s a draw because the living costs can quickly go up (or down) in both locations depending on a wide range of factors.
The US vs Australia: Scholarships and Loans
In both countries, universities are often the primary source of financial support for international students, usually through scholarships or grants. But financial help can also come from other public or private areas, such as regional or national governments, businesses, NGOs, etc.
You can find out what scholarships are available and whether you can apply for one on the official website of your chosen university. Look for sections with the title ‘Funding’, ‘Tuition and costs’, or something similar.
- Scholarshipportal – for the US and Australia
- Scholars4dev – for the US
- The Studyportals Scholarship – our very own scholarship available to all international students
Discover how to get a scholarship to study abroad and why you should always check your eligibility before applying.
Conclusion: it’s a draw between the countries, but a win for the students.
The US vs Australia: Education System
The main difference between the American and the Australian higher education system is that in the US, students can often take general courses or courses not related to their discipline or major. Actually, they can choose a major or change it quite easily if it’s done in due time.
In Australia, academic degrees are highly focused, and you’re unlikely to take courses that aren’t related to the main discipline. Both education systems encourage students to participate in class and to be proactive rather than reactive.
The word ‘college’ can be problematic because it has different meanings. Americans use ‘college’ or ‘going to college’ to refer to all academic institutions (universities, actual colleges). In Australia, there is a clear distinction between universities and colleges, which are focused on technical or continuing education.
Most Australian universities are large institutions, welcoming thousands of students every year. In the US, you can find this type of universities along with medium or small-sized colleges or universities, which offers more flexibility to students. Good to know: you can transfer from a smaller college to a big university after the first or second year of studies.
Grading systems have a few things in common: they use letters and GPAs (grade point average) in both countries, but the scales and their usage are different.
If you come from a country with a different grading system (e.g. a European country), it might take some time until you fully understand how it all works.
In both the US and Australia, students are evaluated using a wide range of criteria, including exams, tests, individual or group assignments, class participation, etc.
Conclusion: it’s a draw, but we need to mention that the US offers more flexibility while Australia is a better choice for students who already know what they want to study and their future career path.
The US vs Australia: Campus Life
Campus life is an essential part of studying at a university or college in the US. The campus is the place where most students meet, live, eat, party, and engage in all kinds of fun activities.
You can also become a member of a club, fraternity, or sorority. While things won’t be as wild as we’ve seen in the American Pie movies, you can expect to meet a lot of people and have a really good time.
In Australia, things are different. Most students live off-campus, either with their parents, in a homestay, or in private rentals. As a result, most of their social activities occur in the community where they live, which can sometimes make it harder to expand their social circle.
Conclusion: a clear win for the US.
The US vs Australia: Work Opportunities
Work during studies
Australia is more friendly towards international students when it comes to working during their studies. You can work up to 20 hours per week during studies and up to 40 hours per week during holidays — this applies to both on and off-campus employment.
The US is more restrictive: you can only work for up to 20 hours per week during studies and only on-campus. Some exceptions for off-campus work can be made if it’s related to your studies — learn more about the Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
Work after graduation
In the US, international graduates can stay in the country and search for a job for 1 year through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme. If you graduate with a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), you can stay for an additional 12 months.
To stay and work in the US after the OPT period, you’ll need a job offer from a sponsored employer. They will apply for a visa for you, and if the application is successful, you’re all set. Keep in mind that usually, only 30-50% of these visa applications are successful.
Australia is less restrictive and encourages students to find a local job and apply their knowledge and skills. In fact, Australian universities and governmental agencies are actively involved in connecting future graduates to potential employers through career fairs and other networking events.
To work in Australia after graduation, you need to apply for a post-graduation visa, and there are multiple options available, allowing you to extend your stay between 1,5–4 years.
Conclusion: Australia wins.
The US vs Australia: Lifestyle
Both countries are multicultural melting pots where English is the official language, so getting around and communicating shouldn’t be an issue. It’s true that some find the Australian accent harder to understand, but this will get easier as you spend more time engaging with locals.
In terms of wellbeing and living conditions, things are somewhat different. In the US, there are disparities between wealthier states and less fortunate ones. Depending on the region in which you live and study, this can be more or less obvious.
In Australia, the economic development is more balanced, and living standards are similar across multiple areas. Cities have a great infrastructure, high living standards, and the minimum wage per hour is higher when compared to the US: 15.06 USD (20.33 AUD) per hour vs 7.25 USD per hour (at the time of writing this article).
In fact, 4 out of the top 10 most liveable cities in the world are from Australia, according to the Liveability Index rankings created by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU):
Crime rates are lower in Australia, especially when looking at the statistics and various violent events occurring in the US.
The counterargument here is that some of the most dangerous and poisonous species (e.g. snakes, spiders) are found on the Australian continent. So, while you’re less likely to meet them in larger cities, this aspect is something to keep in mind.
Leisure and outdoor activities
Both counties offer a wide range of activities that will match your personality and interests. But the truth is, few nations can compete with Australia’s mild winters, amazing wildlife, stunning natural sites, beautiful beaches, and adrenaline-spiking sports:
- white water rafting
- shark diving
- mountain trekking
- kite surfing
- cliff camping
The US has its own attractions, with a climate that includes both sunny days and heavy snow, light summer rains, and thunderstorms. Some of the most popular outdoor sports are:
- bird watching
In the end, both countries offer something for everybody, but…
Conclusion: Australia wins this round.
Study in the US vs Australia: Conclusions
The United States and Australia are among the most popular study destinations in the world, and that’s hardly surprising! The quality of the education is exceptional. People are open and welcoming, living standards are high, and few countries can offer a similar study experience.
Based on the criteria in our article, Australia wins with an overall score of 4-3 (excluding draws). But in the end, it’s up to you to decide which one is the perfect country for studying abroad. Whatever you choose, make the best out of it and have fun along the way.